Making a movie about ghosts can be tricky. It takes a lot to get people to suspend their disbelief, even when they’re watching a film. If the effect or portrayal of the ghost (or ghosts) is good, then there’s a solid chance that the audience will be hooked for the whole movie. But if the effect of the ghost is off, it’s a safe bet that the audience will not be fully engaged with the story. And this is the predicament that the new film A Ghost Waits finds itself in.
Written and directed by Adam Stovall, his directorial debut, A Ghost Waits follows Jack, whose job is to clean and prepare houses for new owners after the previous ones have moved out. Since his place is being fumigated, Jack is forced to spend the night at the house he is currently working on. Throughout the course of his stay, he discovers that the house is haunted by a female spirit. As he confronts her and refuses to leave, they get to know each other and before Jack knows it, he falls in love with her.
There’s a lot to admire about A Ghost Waits. Despite the low budget, it’s not afraid to get creative with the idea of the afterlife. We learn that ghosts have someone that they answer to, that they can’t just aimlessly haunt wherever they please or where they died. It’s an intriguing aspect to the story that might have worked better as the main framework rather than just a plot point that is explained almost halfway through the movie. It becomes apparent that the main focus of the story is not what the ghosts get up to, but the budding relationship between Jack and the ghost, Muriel.
Most of the film’s weight lies heavily on the shoulders of Jack and the actor who plays him. MacLeod Andrews is great as Jack, spending a good chunk of the movie is the only one on-screen. He’s a very natural performer, making his reactions to what’s going on extremely realistic and relatable. Things get a bit wobbly, though, when Muriel shows up. As appearance goes, it’s obvious that she is caked in makeup, and it doesn’t help that the lighting that constantly follows her accentuates that. While it’s clear that Stovall was limited in what he could do effects-wise, it was difficult to take Muriel seriously. Natalie Walker’s performance, while good, doesn’t really match what Andrews brings to the table, making it hard to believe that their characters are actually falling in love with each other.
While A Ghost Waits is limited by its micro-budget, it is undeniably refreshing. Filmed in black and white, it has the heart of an old school ghost movie. The black and white looks quite good and lends itself to the overall mood it’s going for. It’s nice to see a first-time director take chances and tell a story that clearly means a lot to him that doesn’t fit into the typical “independent film” formula. There are a few elements that could have been explored more, mainly Jack’s struggles and shortcomings, and the development of his relationship with Muriel. The film could have been 10, 20 minutes longer with more scenes with the two of them getting to know each other and I would have been completely happy with that. With that said, A Ghost Waits, despite its flaws, is a very admirable effort that proves that you don’t need a big budget to make something worth watching.
Dir: Adam Stovall
Scr: Adam Stovall, MacLeod Andrews
Cast: MacLeod Andrews, Natalie Walker, Sydney Vollmer, Amanda Miller
Prd: Adam Stovall, MacLeod Andrews
DOP: Michael C. Potter
Music: Mitch Bain, Margaret Darling
Runtime: 80 minutes
You can see it first, on February 1st, on ARROW